Creating dance activities to help children listen

Creating Dance ActivitiesImagine a classroom where all the children are smiling and actively engaged, curious and alert.  The teacher is smiling and there is a sense of energy throughout the classroom that is infectious.  No one is frazzled.

While no classroom is perfect all the time it is possible to create an amazing atmosphere in your classroom through creating dance activities that develop specific skills.

Knowing your class is the first step on this journey, as you put together learning activities that keep them interested by knowing THEIR interests. You understand how this class learns and how you can all work together to build a positive classroom environment.  There are some good ideas for classes to getting to know your students in Free Lesson Plans.

Hearing does not mean listening. Which is why the teacher yelling is not a productive habit.  To listen, children need to process what they are hearing and interpret meaning.  They also need to pay attention for prolonged amounts of time when presented with problems that are ambiguous, complex, uncertain and that may have multiple solutions.

Having a teacher and children who know how to listen is the basis for positive relationships throughout the school year.

Co operation and collaboration in the dance classroom begins with listening.

Why is listening important?
We want students to know we are listening to them.
Helps students to stay focused on a task and able to listen to simple instructions.
It is about showing respect and empathy in the classroom community.
As a way to avoid miscommunications and misunderstandings.
To avoid a delay in reading and phonological awareness.
To promote language and communication development.
As a basis for good personal and professional communications.
To extend children’s attention span.
What are students listening to?

Learning activities that encourage children to explore new ideas, think creatively and strive to meet learning challenges whilst teaching them to make informed choices will make for a quality learning environment.  In turn this supports a classroom where students learn about social interactions and regulating their own behaviour.

If children only hear instructions when the teacher talks, they are less likely to listen every time you are saying something.  Try to engage the children by listening carefully to their responses and asking questions that show you are interested in what they are saying.  Maintain eye contact, and pause to consider your response.

Teachers talking less and students talking more enables teachers to give feedback that is accurate, useful and timely.

The questions you ask your students should entice and excite their curiosity and imaginations.  When spoken in a calm and caring tone dialogue in the classroom is more compassionate and shows the children that you are with them on their journey to reach their full potential.

The classroom needs to be calm but also requires a certain amount of positive, vital energy that can be quite noisy. Productive noise is an essential part of the Arts classroom and signifies that children are really contributing to the task.

Being specific with praise can also switch corrections to a focused listening activity.  Children love to hear about things that reflect their own lives.  By making the praise educational you take advantage of opportunities to not only increase knowledge but grow self esteem, personal control, and an enhanced perspective of reality.

Is there bad listening?

Bad listening is not intentional but may become habitual.  We are all guilty of doing these at different times and often observe our students slipping into these habits.

Creating Dance ActivitiesThese may include:

  • Saying that something is uninteresting.
  • Criticizing the person who is speaking.
  • Faking attention.
  • Creating distractions
  • Interrupting
  • Focusing on small details but not the big picture
  • Day dreaming
  • Letting emotions get in the way of really hearing what is being said
  • Not looking at the speaker

However, the issues around these behaviours can be traced back to a number of issues.  It could be about not paying respect to the person who is speaking or only hearing what is being said superficially rather then looking for understanding.  Often children are stuck in their own heads and need a reminder to return to a task.

Many children are unaware of social politeness around listening to others and may need to be reminded.  The activities outlined in the article Audience Etiquette are helpful for this issue.

Active listening through dance activities

Some of promoting active listening in a dance classroom is about keeping the children on their toes (no pun intended).  If the students can predict what you are going to say or do every lesson, then it is easy for them to be distracted or not be fully immersed in what will come next.

With younger students, get them to do a jumping activity before you want them to really listen to something important that may take longer then 5 mins.  This activates a small stressor in the brain, the heart rate increases, and the brain neurotrophic factor is released.  This also process also improves brain growth.

Dance Teaching Ideas for Listening
Hear the Word

Every time the children hear the word ”…” in a song they make a specific shape and when they hearing a different “…word” they need to move. You can also have a listening word or safety switch that you use to make them freeze.

For a simple example use Red Light Green Light.  Use ‘Red Light’ as your shape and ‘Green Light’ as your moving word. ‘Hit the Strobe” could be move like a robot.

Mindful Walking

Creating Dance ActivitiesGo on a listening walk through the school or through a natural environment and have the children remember all the individual sounds they heard. This could be a bird singing, a leaf blower, the sound of traffic, a tap dripping at a drinking fountain or the sound of the wind in the trees.

When they return to the classroom, they make up a movement for each of the sounds they heard and join them together to make a movement sequence.

This activity is also useful for introducing some mindfulness activities into your classroom.

Listening Focus

Encouraging children to listen with purpose gets them into the habit of focusing and remembering what was said. Using the questions outlined in the article 17 Questions to Supercharge Your Dance Responding Activities will help to focus older students when they are watching a dance work, observe student choreography or even listening to the teacher talk about dance.

Children choose not to listen for many reasons but in a dance class you should always be sensitive to the physical aspects of listening.

For some children not listening could be about power and exerting control of their own bodies.

Try to be at the student’s level when talking to them, particularly with young children.  For some children, the height of a teacher may be distracting or overwhelming.

Teaching children how to listen is an essential skill in this new age of technology where active listening and social skills are often overlooked in favour of passive listening, where the listener is only listening to respond.  These listening skills are essential for both personal and academic success in school and in the workplace.

Using listening activities in dance class encourages students to be more confident, better prepared for the uncertainties of working in a creative environment and better able to collaborate.


Nichols, R. G. and L. A. Stevens (1957). Are you listening? New York, McGraw-Hill.

Arthur Robertson (1994). Listen for Success, Irwin

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